Workers’ Compensation for Pipeline Disasters: Are You Eligible?
Since the innovation of transporting oil and natural gas through pipelines in the early 20th century, men and women have put their lives on the line to receive a steady paycheck. However, as century-old pipes start to deteriorate, today’s pipeline workers are placed at an even higher risk for injury and death. Failing lines mean an increase in demand for reconstruction. Although this increase may provide more projects for pipeline workers, it also provides the threat of life-altering exposure to chemicals, toxic gasses, and explosive accidents. As older pipelines fail, they begin to release toxic chemicals and gasses into the soil, water, and air. In addition to poisoning the surrounding environment, these effects also place workers at risk for direct exposure to the released chemicals.
In addition, the current energy boom in the United States has also led to demand for new pipeline construction. This drive is so great that employers sometimes disregard safety standards to meet deadlines. This indifference to employee health directly results in an increase of injuries caused by…
- Careless behavior
- Lack of proper training and communication
- Workplace accidents, such as falls or over-exertion
In 2012 alone, Texas oil field workers suffered 79 lost limbs, 82 crush injuries, 92 burns, and 675 broken bones. Therefore, no matter how you lay it down, if you work on a pipeline, your work puts you at risk.
Following a year-long investigation, the Houston Chronicle released an exclusive story into Texas oil field accidents in 2014. The investigation’s findings are quite alarming, and show a history of death, injury, and negligence in the state of Texas.
The story illustrated how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found safety violations in 78 percent of the Texas accidents it was allowed to investigate—OSHA only investigates accidents where workers are killed or three or more individuals are hospitalized (approximately 150 out of 18,000 accidents between 2010 and 2016). These investigations also determined that many of these accidents could have been prevented with safer procedures or equipment.
Commonly reported accidents included:
- Explosions. Unstable pressure, sparks, and overheating are all potential catalysts that can ignite oil fumes and natural gas. Once ignited, the resulting explosion can lead to percussive, burn, and asphyxiation injuries.
- Exposure to harmful toxins, gas, or caustic material. If a pipe is punctured or has a broken seal, it can leak noxious fumes and materials into the open. These materials can easily be inhaled or absorbed into the skin. Results range from breathing problems to poisoning to cancer.
Injury Claims and Compensation
If you have been injured on the job or as a result of work duties, you should have access to workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits will provide financial support to help pay medical bills and expenses while you recover. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation may not be enough to fully replace your lost wages or cover other expenses pertaining to serious or permanent injuries. When your benefits fall short, your pipeline accident may qualify you to explore different avenues for compensation. These avenues include pursuing claims like:
- A Jones’ Act claim. Under this claim, you must be able to prove that the employer’s negligence caused the accident and subsequent injuries. You must also have worked on a vessel in a navigable body of water. For a Jones Act claim, those who work on a floating oil rig would qualify.
- An OCSLA claim. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act is another type of claim you might be able to pursue. People working on an offshore gas pipeline or fixed oil rig are eligible for such benefits. Therefore, if you qualify, you may be eligible to receive medical benefits, survivor benefits, and compensation for lost wages under this claim.
- A LHWCA claim. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is another legal claim available to injured workers in the oil and gas industry. This type of claim is similar to the Jones Act, but it covers those who do not qualify as a seaman. It covers a wider range of maritime workers including harbor workers, longshoremen, ship repairers and ship builders.
It is also possible that you may be able to seek compensation from a liable third-party for their role in your construction site accident. The only way to know what legal options are available to you is to contact an experienced pipeline and construction accident attorney.
Houston attorney Steve Lee has years of experience helping construction accident victims and their families recover the compensation they need and deserve. Contact our law firm today to discuss your construction accident claim. We’re waiting to help you; what are you waiting for? Call 1-800-232-3711 now to get the advice and support you need during your recovery.